The Journal Gazette
Sunday, May 22, 2022 1:00 am

NCAA D-III Softball

Thunder sweeps into national championship finals

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

ANGOLA – Adrienne Rosey knew the dogpile was coming.

Before Trine's Anna Gill even caught the fly ball to left that clinched the Thunder's NCAA Division III Tournament Super Regional victory over Case Western Reserve on Saturday, Rosey had ripped off her mask and stood near the pitcher's rubber waiting for the celebration to begin.

“I was so excited,” said Rosey, who pitched the final 11/3 innings for the Thunder to notch her first save of the season. “It just feels so good to get a high pop-up and know it's going to get caught and just see your teammates ready to come and pounce on you.”

Trine's 6-2 win at the Thunder's SportONE/Parkview Softball Field punched the team's ticket to the NCAA Division III National Championship Finals in Salem, Virginia, the program's second appearance in four years in the eight-team finals and fourth in program history.

The super regional triumph completed Trine's turnaround after seven straight losses to open the season. The Thunder (32-11) has won 17 in a row and 32 of its last 36.

“I'm just very proud of this team,” Trine coach Don Danklefsen said. “When we started the season 0-7, a lot of people were doubting us. ... They never lost faith in who we are and what we can do. They always looked so confident.”

After beating Case Western (30-12) 1-0 in Game 1 of the best-of-three super regional on Friday, the Thunder jumped in front in the fourth inning Saturday when freshman Emma Beyer broke a scoreless tie with her fifth home run of the season, a solo shot to left-center off Spartans ace Lexi Miskey, who started both super regional games.

Beyer pumped her fist as she rounded second base and screamed “Let's go” at the teammates waiting for her at home plate.

“We knew she was throwing that rise ball, and I expected an inside pitch,” Beyer said. “I got that pitch high and in, which is my favorite pitch.”

The Spartans, playing as the home team, knotted the score in the bottom of the inning on two singles off Trine starter Anna Koeppl, who pitched four innings and struck out two.

The Thunder went in front for good in the fifth when it scored two runs without a hit. A walk, an error and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases, Scarlett Elliott took a bases-loaded walk to bring in the go-ahead run, and Beyer flied out deep to center for a sacrifice fly to make it 3-1.

Catcher Ainsley Phillips made it a three-run lead with a long home run to left-center in the sixth, her third homer of the season, and Beyer and Giselle Riley had RBI hits in a two-run seventh.

That gave Rosey plenty of cushion in the bottom of the seventh. The Thunder ace, who pitched a shutout Friday, retired the side in order in the final inning and then tossed her glove in the air as she waited for her teammates to pile on top of her.

“I'm a freshman, so this is something new for me and it's the best feeling,” Beyer said. “I knew we had that last out and it was just a relief.”

Trine will play Thursday in Salem, but will have to wait to learn its opponent in the first game of the double-elimination tournament. The Thunder finished third in the tournament in 2019 after bowing out in two games in its first two appearances in the finals in 2014 and 2017.

“I think they're ready to go prove they belong,” Danklefsen said. “In the past, we've made the mistake of saying, 'Let's just get there' and once we got there we didn't really believe we could win it. I think this group can go down there and it can win this.”

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